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Critical Theory Reading Group

  • Flitch Coffee 641 Tillery Street Austin, Texas 78702 USA (map)

Reading:
Phenomenology of Spirit by GFW Hegel

A few words of GFW Hegel:

Our reading this week will look at a section from Hegel's philosophical epic The Phenomenology of Spirit. The section we will be investigating is called Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness: Lordship and Bondage. Although this text is what we might think of as more conventionally philosophical, or, to put it another way, a more formal work of theory, by no means does this require us to approach it with a rigid formality. There is no one precise or more correct way to engage with philosophical texts, and we invite a multitude of readings, styles of approach, and a playful generation of thought. We selected this reading in part because it provides a rich foregrounding for a lot of the critical theory and systems we will be investigating through this reading group. That being said, Hegel's distinctive style challenges its reader to dwell in the world of the writing. Much like works of film and poetry, a reading of Hegel can be a wonderfully immersive experience which will hopefully be both fun and interesting for our group.

Critical theory is a way of working, thinking, reading, and knowing at the intersection of more traditional education disciplines stemming largely from the humanities and social sciences.  Drawing on its history anchored in literary and philosophical practices, critical theory functions today as a means of applying social, political, and culturalknowledge in order to reflectively examine, assess, and critique current circumstances of society and culture. 

While not a rigid discipline in the traditional sense, critical theory is a structured form of constant engagement with the world around us. Critical theory involves the direct participation of the ideas, thoughts, products, and mechanisms of others. Contrary to what its name suggests, critical theory is not merely a  deconstructive mechanism for applying a critique or criticism to a static thing or object, rather it is a fluid and dynamic way of examining, understanding, and interrogating the structures and modes of existence. While Critical Theory has no end unto itself and can therefore not be said to be pursuing a particular agenda or predetermined political outcome, the practice of critical theory itself is an overtly political action insofar is it involves the co-disciplinaryco-operative, and co-mmunicative engagement of multiple bodies. 

As its primary mode of operation, critical theory seeks to understand its object of interest through close intimate engagement and critical attentions (see Fawaz How to Read and Watch). As our primary mechanism for engagement we will undertake weekly examinations of what Fawaz calls works of culture which can range in their form from literary texts (theory, manifestos, fiction, poetry, new articles, &c..) to film and photodocuments, to art objects (plastic and performance based). Depending on the direction and desires of the cohort the weekly selection of the works of culturemight center around a central or over-arching theme or we may choose to re-examine a same or similar object from a series of differing vantage points or applied disciplines. In all instances the readings and/or viewings along with all supplemental and supporting materials will be announced and made available on the Friday preceding the Wednesday morning meeting time. As we expand and grow we look forward to providing a space where, more and more, the particular insights and interests of the cohort help to determine the selection of future materials. If at some future point, due to growing interest or fluctuating schedules, it becomes necessary for the reading group to alter or expand their meeting days/times/frequency we will, of course, be fluid and flexible in terms of accommodating the desires and needs of the group. While a bit more relaxed and free-form in it's expression, the group will follow a socratic seminar structure and each session will have a clear and pre-determined flâneur, however this person should change from week to week as the center and focus of the work shifts.

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Earlier Event: September 23
Critical Theory Reading Group
Later Event: October 7
Critical Theory Reading Group